In Carol Reed’s film The Third Man, Orson Welles utters one of the most famous lines in movie history. “In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
Almost everything about the speech is historically incorrect, but the sentiment rings true. It is not impossible to produce great art out of love but it’s hard, as Hofesh Shechter discovers in his new work The Fix – a response to global pandemic, loneliness and isolation that settles on hope and hugs as the answer.
Shechter’s normally frenetic choreography is stilled to a heartbeat under Tom Visser’s white, smoky lighting. The music (provided by Shechter himself) is wave after wave of electronic surge. The dancers huddle in a group, catching each other as they fall, cradling heads in tender arms. They raise their arms skywards, like frozen crosses, mouths open in silent screams. For one long moment they sit still, as if meditating. At the close they offer to hold members of the audience.
It is heartwarming and beautiful, an antidote to all the suffering in the world. Yet it lacks the punch and thrill of the opening piece in this double bill, Clowns, made in 2016, which sees life as a dark, funny cabaret, full of elaborate methods of killing one another, fake smiles and steps that rat-a-tat with the ferocity of machine-gun fire or collapse with silky gentleness.
Both halves of the evening are never less than compelling. The dancers, their bodies full of weight yet bendy as plasticine, are spectacularly committed, making every second seem revelatory. But it was Welles I came away thinking about.